Person taking in their surroundings which are reflected in their eyes

Using DBT to Cope with Caregiver Stress: Mindfulness

When coping with depression associated with Parkinson’s disease or caregiving stress, there are sometimes days when one would like assistance with dealing with the ups and downs. While some therapies put a heavy emphasis on the past, other third-wave behavioral therapies focus on how to deal with the here and now.

DBT and mindfulness

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can be a therapy used in treating depression along with traditional therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.1 This therapy has also been trialed in helping caregivers of loved ones with dementia.2 This therapy focuses on mindfulness at its core with an emphasis on building skills to cope with life’s challenges.1 There are four modules to go through with clients when we using this therapy.1 This article will discuss mindfulness skills. Stay tuned for additional articles highlighting further modules.

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Mindfulness is a buzzword and popular tool that has been getting a lot of attention in the mainstream culture. DBT defines mindfulness as paying attention by focusing the mind on the present moment without attachment to the moment and without judgement of the moment. What’s neat about DBT is that is offers specific strategies for one to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can include meditation but can be used outside of meditation. A few of the top meditations I use with my clients include Progressive Muscle Relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing and Square breathing.

Guide to practicing mindfulness

How would one practice mindfulness in the midst of a busy or stressful day? I’d like to informally guide you through a mindfulness practice supported by DBT that focuses on our five senses.

The first step towards mindfulness is to gently notice you are feeling a certain way. Ask yourself, what emotion am I feeling right now? Where are my thoughts? If you’re thinking ahead to the future or ruminating about the past it’s unlikely you’re being mindful. Mindfulness is about being grounded in the present moment.

Second, direct your attention to the room around you. Utilizing your five senses begin to take in what you see, hear, feel, smell, and (if food is involved) taste. As your mind starts thinking about the future or the past again, which it typically will, gently turn your mind back to the present moment - as many times as it takes. Try to practice this for 2-5 minutes, shorter if you find it challenging, and long if you find it less challenging. Mindfulness can be practiced while eating, spending time with another person, or while taking a walk.

Check in

Now pause and check in with yourself. How did you find that exercise? Did it seem impossible at first and easier as you went on? Practicing mindfulness is a skill that takes just that - practice. Don’t get discouraged if the first time you practice you find yourself thinking about your grocery list or something you may be worried about. That’s natural and can improve with time.

There is a lot more to mindfulness and this here is a brief introduction. DBT, when properly taught in an ongoing skills group, routinely returns to mindfulness because it believes it is just that important. While we will move on in the next articles to additional skills we will absolutely return to mindfulness. What’s been your experience with mindfulness? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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